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posted: 11/5/2012 6:00 AM

Editorial: Your right, your privilege, your responsibility

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Contrary to popular belief, your vote does matter in Illinois.

While the presidential campaign rages, the Prairie State has been virtually ignored for weeks by the top-ticket candidates. The message sent is that true-blue Illinois' electoral votes already have been decided; the conclusion by many is they'll be anywhere but at the polls Tuesday.

But voting never is a futile endeavor. Outcomes are far from certain in many races close to home, including key congressional contests. Your vote for a legislative candidate will help shape Illinois' financial future for years to come. And that's not to mention important county board contests and referendums with more local impact.

By now you may be as annoyed by pleas to vote as you are the campaign ads that can turn people off from voting. But having met our obligation by reporting on the contested races in our area and then publishing endorsements on them, we see it as natural for us to beseech you to meet yours. Here's why.

It's a right. Laws have cemented it, women and African-Americans fought long for it, and soldiers die for it. Their legacy for us burns bright.

We hear of foolish efforts by groups or individuals telling people to stay home on Election Day. A group in Nevada urged Latinos to abstain from voting to punish Democrats for failing to move ahead on immigration reform. And The Associated Press reported in September that black pastors in the South were urging congregants not to vote because one candidate supports gay marriage and the other is Mormon.

Such groups have forgotten that legacy.

It's a responsibility. Our duty not only is to vote, but to be informed. Again and again we've urged readers to look beyond the fliers, TV ads and viral emails and go deeper with their inquiry on the candidates and the issues. Time is short, but you still can study news reports and election guides, search campaign websites or talk with trusted friends and relatives.

Don't take the easy way out. In swing-state Nevada, voters have a choice to mark "none of the above" on their ballot. The practice began as a way to counter voter apathy after Watergate. Similarly, in Canada's national elections last year, a group urged voters to turn in a blank ballot to spark debate about political reform.

This is wrongheaded. Disengaged voters who may disagree with campaign tactics, or the Electoral College, or the weather on Election Day for that matter, do themselves and their fellow citizens no favors by removing themselves from the process.

It's a privilege. As moderator Bob Schieffer concluded the third presidential debate, he reminded viewers of that when he echoed his mother's advice: "Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong."

If you've already voted, you're in the choir to which we preach. If you intend to, good, but tell others of your plans. Spread the gospel of democracy. Wear the "I voted" sticker proudly. The strength of our nation is in your hands.

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